Photo: @_nana on Instagram
The amount of people voluntarily following brands on Instagram proves that Instagram can make money, and soon.While Dan Frommer points out that Instagram doesn’t need to monetise itself in the immediate future, they will need to at some point.
Here’s how and why it will work.
Many big-time brands like Starbucks, Brisk, ABC, Playboy, Kate Spade, NPR, and Incase are on Instagram, and people are “following” them.
When you visit and/or follow these brands on Instagram, it’s just like following any other user. Their pictures populate your news feed where you can “like” or comment on any of them.
So for all intents and purposes, Instagram users are feeding themselves pictures from these companies. “Ads,” are what you might call these pictures.
What’s most important to note is that even if “ads” don’t always contain the product being advertised, they’ll make an impression and raise awareness.
For a moment, you can believe that these companies are just having fun instead of trying to sell you something (like in the case of Promoted Tweets). You might like the company more because of it.
Photo: @goincase on Instagram
A company using a very community-centric social network like Instagram creates a more personal relationship with fans.
For example, the image at right comes from the Incase Instagram page. Incase makes iPhone cases and laptop bags, but this image of an Incase designer sketching assigns a human significance to the company.
No longer is Incase a company, but it’s this man making art. It’s not a neon-coloured barrage of words and prices like conventional ads.
In the film “The Social Network,” Mark Zuckerberg’s character is obsessed with keeping Facebook cool, and not putting up ads too soon. Brands on Instagram are still cool, as long as they abide by the Instagram code: post beautiful pictures.
Another example is Playboy’s Instagram feed, where you have access to dozens of “safe for work” images of beautiful women from Playboy issues of years past.
Photo: @starbucks on Instagram
There’s no flashy “Subscribe Here” link in any image’s caption box. All there is are the pictures, and they’re gorgeous. They might even inspire someone to check out Playboy’s website or order the magazine.
One final example is Starbucks. The picture at right doesn’t look like an ad, but it is one. People who follow Starbucks might like the company a little more after seeing what takes place in real life at Starbucks HQ.
So if you’re not getting the gist of my argument yet, it’s this: Instagram should sell space in each user’s news feed to companies.
Each company would only have to abide by one rule: publish great pictures, and don’t include a price tag inside the picture somewhere. Play nice, and keep things cool.
Of course, users could always voluntarily follow brands, like they’ve been doing, and like people do on Twitter.
Am I also saying that Facebook should start selling News Feed space to companies? No, because Facebook is a different product. Facebook has an advertising side-bar that you can choose not to look at.
Instagram revolves around a news feed, so there aren’t many places it can run without “selling out.” A pop-up ad every time you open the app would be an example of this.
Selling Instagram news feed spots wouldn’t be “ad space.” It would look just like a normal user’s post, while taking up most of the screen like a normal ad might.
While plenty of people have suggested that ads inside the feed would be the way Instagram could monetise, few have made it clear that it can work, and can not make users angry (like Twitter’s “dick bar” did).
There’s this blind assumption that ads have to be pests, and have to be annoying.
Instagram proves that this assumption is untrue.